Monday, July 11, 2011

News of the World Says Thank You and Goodbye

The British Newspaper News of the World, a flagship in the News Corp. empire that in the U.S. includes Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, has closed its doors after 168 years.

The official cause of death is a scandal involving investigators for the paper hacking into phone calls and phone records. That sort of thing was considered funny when it caught Britain's Prince Charles telling his then-mistress now-wife Camilla that he wanted to be her "tampon." It became considerably less funny when it was divulged that phone hacking had extended to ordinary subjects of British news stories:

We praised high standards, we demanded high standards but, as we are now only too painfully aware, for a period of a few years up to 2006 some who worked for us, or in our name, fell shamefully short of those standards.

Quite simply, we lost our way.

Phones were hacked, and for that this newspaper is truly sorry.

There is no justification for this appalling wrong-doing.

No justification for the pain caused to victims, nor for the deep stain it has left on a great history.

Yet when this outrage has been atoned, we hope history will eventually judge us on all our years.
It the realm of screw-ups it is pretty bad enough to get yourself fired. To screw up so bad that you get all of your colleagues fired is spectacular. One is used to that from accounting firms (Arthur Anderson) and financial firms (Lehman Brothers). This is new for a media outlet.

Yet there is something that doesn't quite ring true here. The behavior giving rise the paper's demise happened over 5 years ago. While new details have emerged, the outline of the scandal was previously known. In this age of declining newspaper profits, one has to wonder.

News Corp., the parent company of News of the World, is trying to buy British pay-TV broadcaster BSkyB. Approval of that deal has been delayed due to the public outrage directed at News Corp. from the News of the World scandal. Is News Corp. sacrificing a money draining newspaper to gain a more lucrative broadcast property?

Update 7/13/2011: News Corp. has for now withdrawn its bid for BSkyB. News of the World remains closed.

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